26 Epic Gap Year Ideas with a Twist
Everyone’s got a list of their own top things they want to tick off their list.
If you’re lacking in inspiration for the perfect gap year idea we’ve got our top gap year ideas inspired by our own Global Travellers for you to tick off on your own adventure!
For Nature Wonders
1. Camp under the Northern Lights in Canada
It’s got to be the most fairytale-like wonder in the world. The best way to experience the Aurora Borealis is to camp out in the untouched wilderness where light pollution is not an issue. Canada is jam-packed with great places to catch a glimpse all year round!
How can I get there? Take a Working Holiday trip in Canada
2. Stop off at the driest desert on Planet Earth
One step into the 41,000 miles of salt pans and volcano-topped horizons of Chile’s Atacama Desert and you may actually forget you’re not on Mars. It’s also home to the colourfully striped cliffs we all know and love as the Rainbow Valley, plus the famously gripping Death Valley Dunes.
3. Visit all 59 national parks in the USA
Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree, Yosemite... the list goes on. They’re all spectacular in their own right and, with 84 million acres of national parks to explore, there’s a few for you to get through. Check out how to grab free admission or an annual pass for $80.
4. Explore the Amazon Rainforest in Peru
Also coined as the “lungs of the world”, it’s the most bio-diverse ecosystem on the planet. We can also thank the Amazon for producing 20% of the world’s oxygen. Venture into the depths of the jungle and gain in-depth knowledge about the native wildlife that inhabits it.
How can I get there? Protect the jungle and the wildlife that live within on our Amazon Shelter Volunteer trip.
5. Climb above the clouds in Tanzania
It’s the tallest mountain in Africa & the highest free standing mountain in the entire world. With tons of routes to take depending on time and fitness, conquering Kili tops any bucket list. But be warned, you should be ready for some serious altitude up the 5,895m beast.
How can I get there? Help communities in need on our Tanzania Community Volunteer trip.
6. Get your PADI Open Water Certification in Spain
Dive down deep in the beautiful ocean and discover a whole new underwater world off the coast of Valencia. Become a certified scuba diver in your spare time and enjoy the epic European summer beachside while you assist with marine and coastal conservation in Spain.
How can I get there? Fall in love with the Mediterranean on our Marine Conservation Volunteer trip.
For Ancient Wonders
7. Wander the hidden ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia
Probably one of the most important archeological sites in Asia - not just because of its grand scale, but because the Angkor Wat is considered the largest religious monument in the world. You could spend days exploring the ancient & forgotten temples that cover the city.
How can I get there? Head off on our Community Outreach Volunteer in Cambodia trip.
8. Hike the ever-famous Machu Picchu
Of course, adventure lovers should trek the legendary MP, Peru's ancient Incan city and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. It's quite the hike but the reward of getting there and seeing the incredible setting of the Inca Empire makes it worth it in the end.
How can I get there? Grab yourself a TEFL certification and find yourself exploring incredible ancient wonders in between on our Teach in Peru trip.
9. Catch a sunrise in Myanmar
Slowly drift over this historic temple town as you look down in awe at the sheer scale of the 2,000 remaining temples of the Bagan Plains, spanning across 65km. If it’s the right season, you can watch the sunrise from a balloon. If not, hire a bike and roam the grounds!
How can I get there? Immerse yourself in the Buddhist lifestyle on our Magical Myanmar Volunteer trip.
10. Walk along the Great Wall of China
Possibly the most recognizsable symbol of China’s lengthy history is the Great Wall - one of the Seven Wonders of the World. You can always walk it, but what about sleeping on it? Take an overnight tour to Jiankou, an unrestored section to relish in the serenity and sheer scale.
How can I get there? Base yourself in China as an Au Pair.
For Animal Lovers
11. Monkey Around in Limpopo
Spend your time making monkey friends with over 600 Vervet Monkeys! Ensure they are protected, successfully rehabilitated and recovered to a healthy state so they can get back into the wild.
How can I get here? Spend your days monkeying around on our Monkey Rehabilitation Volunteer trip.
12. Work Alongside Desert Elephants in Namibia
Have your very own Lion King adventure in the vast desert of Sossusvlei in Namibia. Anyone who’s been will praise this breathtaking sight as a landmark you can’t miss. You can visit it at Namib-Naukluft National Park.
How can I get there? Follow and monitor the movements of roaming elephants on our Elephant Conservation Volunteer trip.
13. Care for Stray Pups in Need in Thailand
Do you like exploring new lands, long walks on the beach and have claimed yourself as the world's biggest animal lover? Rescue Paws is a not-for-profit organisation in seaside Hua Hin on a mission to decrease the population of stray dogs through de-sexing, vaccination, education and international re-homing.
How can I get there? Earn endless karma on our Street Dog Rescue & Rehabilitation Volunteer trip.
14. Care for Elephants in the Lush Jungles of Thailand
If you've always wanted to hang with elephant herds in their natural habitat and help with conservation efforts, this is your chance. Escape to beautiful Chiang Mai and spend each week in a new location promoting elephant conservation and care for these gentle giants.
15. ...Or You Can Do Both!
The animal rescue adventure of your life starts here! Start your journey bettering the lives of street dogs in seaside Hua Hin, then head to the lush region of Chiang Mai to care for rescued and injured elephants. Bliss!
How can I get there? Head to Thailand on our Trunks & Tails Volunteer trip.
16. Save Sea Turtles in Costa Rica
Have you always dreamed of seeing nesting sea turtles? One of Costa Rica’s most beloved seaside visitors is the tortoise and it’s one of the very few places in the world where you can fulfil your dream of witnessing a rarely-seen insider experience of biological wonder.
How can I get there? Situate yourself on the shores of Ostional on our Sea Turtle Conservation Volunteer trip.
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From one adventure to the next. We’ve loved watching the incredible journey of Global Volunteer @thewanderlusttravels all over Costa Rica. Here she is waving off a new friend on our Sea Turtle Conservation Trip 😍🐢🌊 #globalworkandtravel #costarica #seaturtle #volunteerabroad
17. Volunteer with Cheetahs and Rhinos in Hoedspruit
Imagine safariing around, the wind in your hair and getting up close to these living legends. Based in a leading private research facility on a game reserve amongst the rolling savannahs, assist in conservation efforts for endangered species such as cheetahs, white rhinos, lions and more.
How can I get there? Form part of a hands-on conservation team on our Endangered Wildlife Conservation Volunteer trip.
18. Hang Out With Sloths in Costa Rica
As if there weren’t already a million reasons to visit Costa Rica, sloths are some of the most common visitors in the rainforest. How does living on-site in an animal sanctuary while you nurse injured wildlife back to health so that they can be released back into the wild sound?
How can I get there? Become a wildlife warrior and chill with sloths on our Sloth & Wildlife Sanctuary Volunteer trip.
19. Sail the Galapagos Islands and Experience Biodiversity in the Wild
Few places in the world offer wildlife spotting as good as the Galapagos Islands. On land, spot giant tortoises, iguanas basking in the sun and blue-footed booby birds wooing each other. Below the water swim with reef sharks, turtles, manta rays and even sea lions.
How can I get there? Jump on board the Real Galapagos Volunteer trip and live the island life.
20. Walk on the Wild Side in South Africa
Spend your days amongst all the famous faces of the animal kingdom and get involved in game park management. Contribute to wildlife conservation efforts and experience a trip loaded with pinch-yourself-moments.
How can I get there? Hang with the Big 5 on safari during our African Wildlife and Conservation Volunteer trip.
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"Today we did a check up on a lion with the local vet and it was one of the most exciting things ever, examining such a beautiful animal while being circled by the rest of its family is a memory I’ll never forget" - Global Traveller @braydenstanford throwing it back to when he was on our African Wildlife and Conservation Volunteer Trip 🐾 #lion #southafrica #kwantu #globalworkandtravel #canonaustralia #natgeo
21. Get Medical Experience in the Island Paradise of Zanzibar
Check out cultures as old as civilisation and laze about on the best beaches in the world while working hand-in-hand with medical pros to provide better healthcare for over two million islanders.
How can I get here? Tackle healthcare challenges that face Zanzibari’s on our Healthcare Heroes Volunteer trip.
22. Eat Your Way Through Vietnam’s Street Markets
Between the bustling cities of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, there’s delicious street food to be tasted around every corner. Don’t let the word ‘street’ put you off, this is how the locals eat (a plate will set you back $1-$3). Try some Goi Cuon (fresh spring rolls) or Pho (noodle soup).
How can I get there? Stick around, gain your TESOL certificate & teach English in Vietnam.
23. Spark Joy for Kids in Cape Town
Work in some of Cape Town's poorest communities and take part in a meaningful project that will see you assisting schools, nurseries and other childcare facilities that need extra help during school hours.
How can I get here? Assist in community projects geared towards empowering underprivileged kids on our Cape Town Community Volunteer trip.
24. Try Your Hand at Tango in Buenos Aires
Always wanted to learn the tango? Allow the bright and bustling barrios, vibrant culture and fascinating history to capture your heart in Buenos Aires! Giving beginner tango classes a go is just the beginning.
25. Get Splattered with Tomatoes in Spain
Head here in late August so you can witness La Tomatina for yourself. More than 40,000 tomato throwing enthusiasts descend to the tiny Mediterranean town of Valencia to pelt 145,000kg of produce at one another annually. Join them!
How can I get here? Live like a local on our Teach English in Spain trip.
26. Experience Oktoberfest in Germany
Time a trip in late September for the world’s biggest, first and favourite folk festival. Drink endless steins and stuff yourself silly with giant pretzels at Oktoberfest. It’s all about the local beer, delicious German fare and Bavarian brass bands.
How can I get here? Become part of a family as an Au Pair in Europe.
These gap year ideas should help get the ball rolling, but remember that with a gap year, anything goes. It's about doing what you want and not being afraid to explore beyond your comfort zone.
So, where will you go first?